How do I feel about this? Simple things first - I'm far from being a fan of that particular paper, and this kind of column isn't what I naturally turn to. Most of all though, I'm proud: the girl can write.
It does, however, raise some interesting points. Reading about someone I think I know so well is bound to be unsettling. It's like seeing a painting through an opaque window: the general outline is what you expect, but the details are unrecognisable. Why? Firstly, because we never truly know each other, whatever the relationship. How siblings (or friends) understand each other is shaped by the dynamics of our shared past - Maura and I are 4 years and a sibling apart (I have four sisters and a brother). We got on well as younger kids, then lost shared interests in the ensuing years, before rediscovering commonalities in the more recent past, despite - or because - not seeing each other very often. My memories and understanding of her, and hers of mine, can never fit the way we understand ourselves. Part of becoming an adult is letting go of these fixed prospects, of encountering our loved ones as they wish to present themselves, or as they are. The loss of shared experience is replaced by the richness of our separate lives - there's always something new to learn when we meet again, unencumbered (hopefully) by distant rivalries and resentments. Refounding a blood relationship in friendship is surely a significant moment.
Added to this, of course, is the plain fact that we edit ourselves for public consumption: the Maura Byrne bylined in this piece is a fictional construct, just as the Plashing Vole you see in the lecture hall, the pub or on a blog is merely a facet of a shifting collection of attitudes, beliefs, positions and cells. This isn't criticism, merely observation: the concept of the individual as a stable, discrete unit is a product of western rationalist capitalism - my take on it is simple poststructuralism. 'Maura Byrne' the journalist is no more and no less true than Maura Byrne my sister - and the demands on the columnist is that the art is closer to the surface.
The result is that, ten years ago, the Vole who read of his sister's 'voracious' consumption of culture and art would have scoffed and sarcastically offered an alternative narrative. The Vole of now accepts that these claims reflect a life I haven't recently shared, an interpretation equally, if not more, valid than mine, which of course reflects the tensions and experiences of childhood.
So - to my sister the author: congratulations and admiration.